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Drug launches across Europe will be affected by coronavirus

Published on 20/03/20 at 09:49am

The COVID-19 pandemic will affect European launches of drugs for a host of diseases including HIV, cancer and sickle cell disease, according to analysts.

Experts from the Jefferies Financial Group have predicted that Europe may avoid the worst of pharmaceutical supply disruptions from coronavirus, but it will still be hit hard in terms of drug launches. It could also impact patients’ treatment through hospital-administered drugs if fewer patients are able to see a doctor, due to their attention being focused on treating the pandemic. This would affect pharmaceutical companies’ sales of their drug products.

There are some notable drugs from the top European pharmaceutical companies that could face delayed launches. Novo Nordisk’s Rybelsus (semaglutide) type 2 diabetes pill is one under threat, with an estimated $524 million in potential sales at risk.  Another is AstraZeneca’s launch of Calquence for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, where predicted sales of $44 million are also at risk.

In terms of economic impacts on the companies themselves, Jefferies predicts this will significantly hurt their share prices. Already there is a decline of around 1% for the European drug companies. Jefferies has predicted that a worst case scenario of a 30% fall in drug sales would mean Roche’s shares would be down 11%, Sanofi by 8%, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) by 7%, AstraZeneca by 4%, Novartis by 2.5% and Novo Nordisk by 1.2%.

Jefferies also concluded that no drug companies in Europe would benefit from the spread of the pandemic, even those who create respiratory drugs, tests, treatments or vaccines for the coronavirus.

Across the Atlantic, European companies are facing problems in getting drugs launched there too. There is potential for FDA reviews to be delayed; this would directly affect AstraZeneca, which has multiple drugs under review including its PARP treatment Lynparza.

There is also potential for delays to advisory board meetings that are convened by the FDA to guide decision making on important drugs and give a pharmaceutical company indication as to whether their treatment will be approved. Jefferies points to GSK’s 21 April meeting on their respiratory drug Trelegy Ellipta as one that could face a delay.

Across the board, it is expected that clinical trials are already facing massive disruptions due to the pandemic, with recruitment and adherence being hard to control. This will further delay the launch of new drugs.

Conor Kavanagh

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